It’s just one of those days.
You’re out on court, and things are not going well. You’re losing. Your forehand is tentative, your usual tactics aren’t working and it seems like the court looks smaller and smaller with every error you make. What do you do?
Mix. Things. Up
When you find yourself down & almost out on the tennis court, it is vital that you change and adjust your tactics based on their current success rate.
You’ve heard ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, right? Well if it is broke, do fix it! Don’t keep going down a tactical path that is yielding little to no reward. There are a variety of ways you can change the dynamics of a match by altering your shot selection and making tactical changes. Here’s how you can claw yourself back into matches by changing gears and mixing things up.
Increase/Decrease Topspin & Vary Speeds –
Is your opponent looking extremely comfortable down the other end? If they’re short or struggle with ground strokes above shoulder height (or have a 1 Handed Backhand), try increasing topspin to get the ball jumping off the court. If they’re handling topspin with ease, try flattening the ball out to create urgency and cut down their recovery time. Mixing between the 2 and varying the speed of your shots can greatly affect your opponents rhythm and get them out of their comfort zone.
Slice n Dice –
Slicing is a fantastic way to slow the rally down and force your opponent to generate pace (can lead to errors). If you’re facing someone tall, slicing low is a great way to get the ball out of their strike zone and make them uncomfortable. Also a great option for returning a big serve, as a chipped slice is generally more consistent and takes pace off the ball.
Increase Height Over The Net –
If you’re struggling for consistency in your match, you need to focus on making more ‘Good Errors’ and less ‘Bad Errors’. I know, I know, a good error sounds like a massive oxymoron. But in tennis, errors happen. They happen a lot. In fact, that’s how most tennis points end. By increasing your height over the net, you are less likely to commit a bad error (hitting a ground stroke into the net), and more likely to commit a good error (hitting a ground stroke past the baseline). Hitting high over the net gives you a greater margin for error, whereby an off-centre hit, or a slightly miscued or misjudged shot, will generally go in.
Think of it like putting in golf. You have to putt the ball past the hole to give it a chance of going in. In tennis, you need to get the ball higher than the net to give it a chance of going in.
Hold The Baseline & Attack Only Very Short Balls –
When you’re facing someone who is playing extremely well or is maybe a higher level than you, you can get into a routine of constantly being passed at the net. You’re trying to be tactically aware by being attacking and approaching the net off short balls, but you keep getting destroyed at the net! You know what’s coming… Mix. It. Up. Stay on the baseline longer, and look to only approach the net off very short balls (balls that land between the net and halfway into the service box). Once your opponent is comfortable passing you at the net or isn’t fazed by you attacking, the best thing to do is to change gears and adjust your tactics.
Increase Your 1st Serve Percentage –
Is your opponent creating tonnes of break-point opportunities and/or breaking your serve with ease? This generally stems from a low 1st serve percentage. Hitting under 50% of 1st serves in will put more pressure on your 2nd serve, and generally leads to a weaker serve or a double fault. Try hitting your 1st serve as if it was your 2nd serve. This will increase your 1st serve percentage and your opponent will not be expecting it (they will be returning from deeper in the court thinking it will be a 1st serve).
Take More Time Between Points (Control The Tempo)
This is the one. This is the absolute best way to mix things up when you’re down in a tennis match. Slow. Things. Down. Tennis is extremely frustrating when you’re not playing well, and it can be very easy to rush between points and can lead to you losing stacks of points in a row. After a poor error, take the maximum amount of time you can before playing the next point. If your opponent is looking to rush you, turn away from the court and look at the back fence while you take deep breaths and think through the situation. If you’re losing a match, it is vital you control the tempo and resist the urge to rush between points.
Remember, your job on the tennis court is to make your opponent uncomfortable. Vamos!